(This article first appeared in the May-June 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The American Postal Workers Union has entered the final step in our fight for a good contract: Interest Arbitration. This is a process whereby issues that were not resolved during negotiations between the employer and the union are presented to a neutral arbitrator, agreed upon by both parties, for a final and binding resolution.
The neutral arbitrator conducts a hearing flanked by a representative from each party. Together, they listen to witnesses who present the parties’ positions. The arbitrator then reviews the testimony and supporting evidence and decides the terms of the contract by issuing an arbitration award.
On the second day of the hearing, I explained the importance of the Motor Vehicle Service, “The employees of the Motor Vehicle Craft proudly provide the transportation and vehicle maintenance support necessary to ensure the USPS mission, ‘to provide the nation with reliable, affordable, universal mail service’ is accomplished every day.”
Next, I gave a historical perspective of the Motor Vehicle Craft’s establishment in Washington, DC, in October 1914. Prior to this, vehicle service was performed exclusively by contractors. The employees of our craft today are a diverse group of individuals, with 39 percent of the workforce comprised of honorably discharged and disabled veterans.
Following my presentation, two panels of rank-and-file members testified. They came directly from the Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) floor and from behind the wheel of 7- and 11-ton postal trucks and tractor-trailers.
Both Motor Vehicle Operators and Tractor Trailer Operators gave testimony to elucidate that they are more than just truck drivers, testifying about the wide variety of work and responsibility entrusted to them.
They explained the importance of each assignment, noting that the majority of work is performed with little to no supervision. Drivers are entrusted to make decisions on a daily basis that ordinary truck drivers rarely make in the course of their careers.
In addition to pre-trip inspections that are meant to keep the workforce safe, the drivers’ main concern is their customers. Postal Vehicle Service (PVS) drivers usually begin their tours by transporting significant amounts of mail and revenue in the back of their trucks.
U.S. mail continues to be the means for the public to exchange valuables with each other, with the contents ranging from a bride’s engagement ring to the ashes of a fallen soldier returning home. The mail binds communities together.
Following the PVS panel, the union introduced employees who work in the VMF. Our goal was to show the neutral arbitrator that VMF employees are also entrusted with important tasks and that they perform these duties with little to no supervision.
VMF employees work with vehicles so old that replacement parts are often difficult to find. The work is so diverse that they could be rebuilding an engine one day and replacing brake drums the next. A technician on the East Coast could be working on an A/C system while his or her counterpart on the West Coast is checking emissions to make sure a vehicle will pass a smog test.
Without the testimony of APWU members who are currently performing these duties, management would paint a picture that devalues the work done day-in and day-out by our craft.
There is no question that the Postal Service would prefer to portray the Motor Vehicle Craft as nothing more than delivery drivers and Jiffy Lube oil-changers, when, in reality, the Motor Vehicle Craft is the essential link that ties Mail Processing with Customer Service.
Our diverse panels of APWU MVS members from throughout the country thoroughly demonstrated that the Motor Vehicle Craft employees represent a bargain to the USPS for the work we perform, and the panel members are to be commended for their presentations.
Hundreds Who Spoke Out Made the Difference
Subcontractor’s Application for Safety Exemption Denied
The APWU won an important victory on March 15 – one that will save lives and help protect the jobs of postal drivers.
After hearing outcries from APWU members and allies, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied a request from a private subcontractor seeking exemption from a federal safety rule. The request by the National Star Route Mail Contractors Association (NSRMCA) would have permitted private commercial drivers that haul mail for the Postal Service to operate trucks after more than 14 hours on duty following a break of less than 10 hours.
NSRMCA represents approximately 17,000 small companies that transport mail for the USPS in trucks of various sizes. Many of them are so small that drivers are exempt from the drug and alcohol tests that Postal Service drivers are required to take, adding to the danger.
When the request came to the APWU’s attention late last summer, we urged postal workers and others concerned with highway safety to oppose the request. Hundreds responded.
This is a significant victory for the safety of the public and postal drivers. The ruling will undoubtedly save lives. Hopefully this will finally convince management of the value of postal drivers, and slow their endless pursuit of privatization and subcontracting. We would like to thank all of our members and A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service for answering our call and making the many comments on the FMCSA website.